SINGAPORE: Singapore is conducting a significant investigation into its largest money laundering scandal, primarily involving Chinese nationals, causing embarrassment for China, Khabarhub reported.
In mid-August, Singapore police arrested ten foreign nationals and conducted raids, seizing luxury items such as Hermes handbags, Patek Philippe watches, aged Macallan whisky, Bentley, and Rolls-Royce cars.
The scandal revolves around more than $2.4 billion worth of assets, shaking up the Asian financial hub. Consequently, Singaporean banks have become cautious regarding clients of Chinese origin holding other citizenships, following the exposure of this money laundering scheme, according to Khabarhub, a Nepali digital news media.
Several banks have revised their rules, particularly for clients of Chinese origin who possess investment-linked passports. Some international banks are even closing accounts of clients with citizenship from countries like Cambodia, Cyprus, Turkey, and Vanuatu.
Singapore has intensified efforts to strengthen its anti-money laundering framework since island-wide raids on August 15 led to the arrest and charging of ten wealthy individuals of Chinese origin, describing it as “one of the most serious, if not the worst, money-laundering cases in Singapore.”
Of the ten suspects, three are current Chinese nationals, while the rest hold different primary passports but have origins in Fujian. They were also found with Chinese passports.
The case has affected Singapore’s reputation, but it has also cast a shadow on China, given the involvement of Chinese nationals in the scandal. It is important to note that Singapore initiated the investigation independently, denying any influence or request from the Chinese government.
The Singapore Police Force has seized $1.8 billion in cash and assets from the ten individuals, including properties, vehicles, cash, luxury items, and jewelry. These assets are believed to be the proceeds of organised crime committed overseas, including scams and online gambling, with funds laundered through Singapore’s financial institutions, as reported by Khabarhub.
Singapore’s reputation as a clean and efficient financial hub has taken a hit, but experts believe that the case has also damaged China’s image due to the involvement of its nationals.
The case includes individuals like Fujian Wang Bingang, who profited from illegal online gambling services offered to Chinese players. Wang formed his group in 2012 and made substantial profits through the Hongli International gambling site in the Philippines and Cambodia.
Financial institutions are now scrutinising all new account registrations and transactions involving individuals of Chinese origin. They are assessing and, in some cases, restricting transactions from users with citizenship from other nations. Accounts of customers from Vanuatu, Dominica, Cyprus, Cambodia, and Turkey are being closed.
The focus is on Singapore’s efforts to prevent Chinese nationals from engaging in money laundering practices, with the country’s attractive financial environment and proximity to China being key factors driving such illicit activities, Khabarhub reported. (ANI)